Saturday, February 2, 2008

God's Evil

Many people will look upon the following passages with approval and a sort of grim schadenfreude: "those sinners got what they deserved, and anyone today who goes against God should get the same punishment." I take it as obvious that that sort of attitude is barbaric and not really worth comment. Any minimally decent person who considers the acts or punishments described here without the rationalizations that people's affection for religion often leads them to will find them repugnant and evil. Many people will respond with surprise that God or God's followers ever did such things. Others will respond that the passages are out of context, or that there were historical and social contingencies that made these commandments appropriate. Certainly we can construct less enlightened explanations for why a group of humans 3,000 years ago might have endorsed a commandment for killing witches, or for why they would have been undisturbed by raping virgin girls. But the problem is that this book has been held up again and again as a the paragon of moral guidance, and we are repeatedly told that it is the perfect word of God. We are told that one cannot be a morally decent person without religion. And God is thought to be a morally perfect being who loves us. The only way one can sustain those sorts of views about the Bible is to either avoid reading the book altogether or to carefully cherry pick examples that portray God in this positive light.

I submit that a person looking for moral guidance should not consult the Bible--it's moral recommendations are hopelessly corrupt, convoluted, and contradictory.

God sends 2 bears to devour 42 children for teasing the prophet Elisha about his bald head.II Kings 2:24.

God commands the Israelites to slaughter all of the women who have had sex with men, all the men, and all the boys among the Midianites. God instructs them to save 32,000 virgin girls for their own use. Eleazar, the high priest, receives 32 virgin girls. Numbers 31.

The Lord commands the Israelites to "utterly destroy" nor "shew mercy to" the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites and the Jebusites. Deuteronomy 7:1‑2.

The Lord commands David to conduct a census. Then the Lord grows angered and gives them a choice of punishments: famine, pursuit for three months by their enemies, or three days of pestilence. David cannot choose, so the Lord inflicts the pestilence. 70,000 people die and in a change of heart, "the Lord repented him [the Lord] of the evil." II Samuel 24.

The Lord gives the Jews a great scare by turning snakes loose on them, and then gives them bizarre instructions for ridding themselves of them. Numbers 21:6.

The Lord visits and impregnates Sarah, Abraham's wife. Genesis 21:1.

The Lord visits and impregnates Hannah, wife of Elkanah. 1 Samuel.

The Lord demands and sanctions human sacrifices. Leviticus 27:28‑29, Judges 11: 29‑40, II Samuel 21: 1‑9.

The Lord kills the first born of every Egyptian family. Exodus 12:29.

The Lord sanctions slavery. Exodus 21:2‑6, Leviticus 25:44‑46.

The Lord commands the killing of witches. Exodus 22:18.

The Lord commands death for heresy. Exodus 22:20.

The Lord commands death for violating the sabbath. Exodus 31:14‑15.

The Lord commands death for cursing one's parents. Leviticus 20:9.

The Lord commands death for adultery. Leviticus 20:10.

The Lord commands death for blasphemy. Leviticus 24:16.

The Israelites are commanded to "utterly destroy all in the city, both men and women, young and old, oxen, sheep, and asses, with the edge of the sword." Joshua 6:21.

The Lord allows Satan to kill Job's livestock, destroy his house, kill his children, inflict boils on his entire body. He is ravaged by disease and famine, he is spurned by his friends. The purpose of the trials is to demonstrate the strength of Job's faith to Satan, and the Lord takes the opportunity at the end of the book to remind Job of his great and terrible power. Job is ultimately returned twice as much as he loses during the tests. Job.

The Lord said to Moses, "Take all the leaders of these people, kill them and expose them in broad daylight before the Lord, so that the Lord’s fierce anger may turn away from Israel." . . .The Lord said to Moses, "Treat the Midianites as enemies and kill them. Numbers 25: 4 and 16

Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death. Exodus 21: 17

The Christian doctrine towards women:

"But if they [men] cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn. And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband: but if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let no the husband put away his wife. I Corinthians 7:9.

"But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God." I Corinthians 11:3.

"Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man."

Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife. . . Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing." Ephesians 5:22.

"In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array. But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works. Let the women learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness and sobriety." Timothy 1:9.


Anonymous said...

I find it a bit of an odd position for an acedemic to take "I submit that a person looking for moral guidance should not consult the Bible"

as odd as saying that such a persion should not consult Nietsche.

The debate (about Nietsche) seems to be where is it correct to place the emphasis [on constructing one's own values, or on the role of supermen]. And in the bible the passages you cite, versus say Micah 6:8
.. and what doth Jehovah require of thee, but to do justly, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with thy God." offer grounds for a discussion of where the empahsis was at the time of writing, and later in subsequent commentary.

It may be possible to conclude where the Jewish people moved the emphasis between contradictory passages.

Certainly one could pick an choose passages from the Bible or Nietsche, but that doesn't mean that there isn't a useful discussion of values, or an interesting historical perspective of changing values, or even say a consistent way that they approached moral questions. The point that you can't look to the Bible for a consistent, timeless answer to all moral questions speaks more to its diverse human sources, than anything else. Does a clear and simple, (unconvulted), disinterested, (uncorrupt), and consistant (uncontradictory) source of moral guidance exist? Certainly the bible is not such a source, but that does not make it un-interesting or worthless.

Anonymous said...

It's pretty obvious that the "god" of the bible is an evil entity. One would think this would make it impossible for believers to promote a literal reading of the bible, but it doesn't. It just makes believers subscribe to equally evil views.

For example, one believer I talked to said, "Killing first born sons is alright because they would have grown up to be the enemy."

Hence, a literal belief in the bible forces people to an extreme rationalism that explodes into the condoning of immoral behavior.

However, what's particularly fascinating to me is when christians try to excuse god via jesus in the new testament. "There is a new covenant," they say, and god has "changed" from its old testament ways.

God has changed? Immutable god?

For christians, aren't jesus and god one and the same entity?

Jesus is the same evil god from the OT. Hence, anyone who believes in a literal interpretation of the OT and the NT and continues to proudly support such depraved behavior on the part of god-jesus are themselves immoral and wicked.

This is why atheists can justly argue that most christians/theists (those who view the bible as literally true) are evil.

No wonder christians are so obsessed with immorality -- they are projecting their own inner landscape on the rest of us.

Anonymous said...

The Evil of Jesus:

“He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death.” Matthew 15:4-7

Jesus says that he has come to destroy families by making family members hate each other. He has “come not to send peace, but a sword.” Matthew 10:34

Jesus: “Don’t imagine that I came to bring peace on earth! No, rather a sword if you love your father, mother, sister, brother, more than me, you are not worthy of being mine." Matthew 10:34

“Brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child: and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death." Matthew 10:21

Jesus strongly approves of the immoral laws of the Old Testament. Matthew 5:17

Jesus condemns entire cities to dreadful deaths and to the eternal torment of hell because they didn’t care for his preaching. Matthew 11:20

Jesus, whose clothes are dipped in blood, has a sharp sword sticking out of his mouth. Thus attired, he treads the winepress of the wrath of God. (The winepress is the actual press that humans shall be put into so that we may be ground up.) Revelations 19:13-15

Anonymous said...

On the subject of quoting the Bible - here's one from Isaiah 45:7 (KJV)

"I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things."

There you have it - straight from the horse's mouth. He admits to creating evil. Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury, I demand you return a verdict of Guilty.